Once upon a time I lived in Townsville, North Queensland. My wife and I were thinking about using our money better — we decided we needed an ‘investment plan’ to secure our wealth and our future. So we went to an investment information seminar with Storm Financial, a local company specialising in wealth creation strategies. We’d heard good things about them; and the sales pitch was phenomenal. They said too many Aussies settle for a comfortable retirement — with hopes set on, perhaps, a caravan and a car and years of road tripping… when we should be pursuing a luxurious retirement. Their advice seemed likely to make us lots of money; they wanted us to borrow against everything we owned to buy shares in a market they said would inevitably increase in value.
The market might trend upwards over time, but this advice came just before a crash that saw lenders ‘call in’ their loans to Storm Financial and its clients; it was a perfect storm — destructive and terrifying — many people lost their retirement plans overnight. The company’s collapse changed the way financial planners operate in Australia. We didn’t invest with Storm, but these losses demonstrated to me a problem with the investment plans offered by people focused on amassing the things of this world… Jesus had something to say about this too (and about the way our hearts chase money, and so lead us away from God and his ‘plan’ for our life)…
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. — Jesus (Matthew 5:19-24)
His point is not only that money will also disappoint — but the stuff we buy with it will always, ultimately, break down and be destroyed. As soon as we buy a new house it starts falling apart and needing maintenance… as soon as we drive a new car out of the shop it loses value… the things of this dying world and the things we make… they die, they disappoint, they are poor substitutes for real wealth; but pursuing them is a matter of our ‘heart’ — what we love and value; and pursuing dying things rather than the living God will take us to death… where our treasure is, there our hearts will be. What we look at; invest our attention on; shapes how we live. If you live fixated on a luxurious retirement you won’t be able to be truly present here and now; if you live fixated on money, your time and relationships will be prioritised around that pursuit… if you live for the things of this world you’ll ignore God and his plan for life in the here and now, and in the future.
A little later Jesus tells a story that explores how this ‘investment plan’ works — how if he is truly valuable and truly secures our future (eternally) we should respond to him. He talks about somebody who discovers a treasure of incredible value — such value that he’s willing not just to ‘borrow against all he owns’ but to sell all he owns to invest in this treasure.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. — Jesus (Matthew 13:44-46)
This isn’t financial advice; we’re not saying that to try Jesus means selling all your stuff to secure a luxurious ‘heavenly’ retirement — but it does mean thinking differently about what is valuable and where you are investing your life in order to secure your hopes and dreams (and it asks you to think about such dreams with a much longer perspective than just what you’ll do when you retire).
The apostle Peter (sometimes called ‘Saint Peter’) was one of Jesus’ best mates, he wrote some bits of the Bible reflecting on what it meant to take up Jesus’ investment plan for his own life. Peter ended up being killed for his belief in Jesus, but that didn’t phase him because of his confidence in this plan, he talks about following Jesus producing a ‘living hope’ for life now, but also life after death.
“In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.” — Peter (1 Peter 1:3-4)